In 1908, when Camille Poulenc commissioned his factories in Vitry-sur-Seine to bring chemistry to medicine manufacturing, he had no idea that 110 years down the line the site would become a biotechnology platform based on leading scientific and technological expertise, with a reach across research & development to industrial affairs.
Breaking new ground
The site’s chemical-based, pharmaceutical research and production activities were adapted during World War I to focus on national defense. In 1941, despite drastic shortages due to the war, researchers produced the first antibacterial sulfonamides (synthetic drugs) that were vital in the treatment of infections until the production of antibiotics. In 1943, for the first time in France, researchers succeeded in making the first grams of penicillin, which has been discovered a few years earlier by American scientists, Fleming, Chain and Florey.
After the war, in 1947, the site manufactured three types of antibiotics: penicillin, streptomycin and aureomycin. Antibiotics have deeply revolutionized the treatment of infections and have significantly increased life expectancy in the second half of the twentieth century. This was Vitry’s first significant contribution to public healthcare. It was followed by the discovery, development and production of leading medicines, particularly in cardiovascular diseases, in the treatment for cancer and neurodegenerative area with a continuity in the field of antibiotics. At that time, in honor of the world of discoverers, the site's buildings are named after internationally recognized French physicists, chemists and scientists whose work is internationally renowned: Pasteur, Lavoisier, Becquerel, Gay Lussac, Friedel and Curie.
The shift towards biotechnology in 2008 and the creation of Biolaunch, was aimed at revolutionizing how we create medicines to provide our patients with more targeted, effective and innovative drugs.
From chemistry to biotechnologies in a decade
The site's rehabilitation required 10 years of renovations with an investment of €104m. The vast reconstruction over the 10-hectare site began in 2008 during which old industrial structures were dismantled, 7,200 tons of metal recycled and 70,000 tons of concrete crushed. Waste was processed and soil and ground water were treated and purified. The entire reconstruction project was supervised by a workforce of more than 100 people.
Today, the site brings together research, development and production activities. Research, which represents 75% of the site’s activities, is focused on oncology while the Biolaunch unit, inaugurated in 2014, is dedicated to the development and production of biological drugs such as monoclonal antibodies1. This proximity makes close collaborations possible: across the site, multidisciplinary teams work together to research, identify, design, model and develop innovative therapeutic solutions.